Impact of shutdown already hits home for many

Oct. 02, 2013 @ 06:42 PM

The government shutdown may impact those in the Triad sooner then they thought.
On Tuesday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services instructed 337 employees not to show up to work Wednesday. The employees are fully funded by federal dollars and will be furloughed until a resolution is passed by the federal government.
Employees that are partially funded by federal dollars will remain at work until the full impact of the shutdown can be assessed, according to the health department. In total, up to 4,500 DHHS employees may be furloughed or see their hours reduced by the shutdown.
As a result of the shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, will shut down this month as remaining funds run out.
An email sent to Guilford County WIC Director Rebecca Gilliland said “the Nutrition Services Branch has funds available to support your WIC staff to continue WIC operations through the month of October.”
Gilliland said the office serves 13,545 clients monthly and has a staff of 44 people. 
“We have been told to continue operations as usual,” she said. “I know by looking at the Internet things don’t sound good. We are the fourth-largest WIC program in the state, so we would be hit very hard.”
The program, which is completely funded by the federal government, provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for almost 264,000 women, infants and children monthly across the state.
“We are looking at low-income families losing a major support system,” Gilliland said. “Even though we are a supplemental nutrition program, we meet a vital need, which is providing food in the home. We were never meant to be the sole source of food for a family, but we help a tremendous amount. Breast-feeding mothers would not have support to continue breast-feeding successfully. Infant formula is one of the most expensive things that we provide.”
Gilliland said she and her staff are keeping an eye on what is going on in Washington.
“I do not want to alarm my staff, but certainly, I would fear loss of jobs if this does not get resolved,” Gilliland said. “It is hard to imagine that our government officials would not be concerned about feeding a group of vulnerable citizens.”
Based on information gathered from the federal government, other potential impacts on DHHS include:
• Halting standard follow-up licensure inspections of certain licensed health care facilities by federally funded inspectors
• Draining of funds for North Carolina’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, called Work First
• Draining of funds for The Child Care Development Fund. Existing funds likely will cover a portion of the month of October
• Draining of funds for Adult Protective Services and Guardianship Services
The shutdown does not affect Medicaid and services at DHHS’ state-operated facilities, according to the health department. Food stamps will continue to be distributed through the month of October, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
cdavis@hpe.com | 888-3657